SCUBA DIVING PALAU
What makes Palau diving unique?
While there is tremendous variety of diving available in Palau, Palau's most famous dive sites are concentrated along a ten mile stretch of the barrier reef facing southwest into the Philippine Sea. This section of the reef is nearly all vertical walls descending hundreds of meters straight down into abyssal depths.
These miles of sheer walls are made irregular by underwater projections, plateaus, and channels cutting deeply into the reef. This complex reef topography is swept by strong currents and upwelling nutrient rich water powered by Palau's proximity to the powerful equatorial counter current.
The Palauan archipelago presents an eighty mile long barricade to this vast movement of water which accelerates as it nears the ends of the islands. One effect is that long stretches of reef wall can have gentle currents that carry divers effortlessly for more than a mile along a vast panorama of sea fans, hard and soft corals, and the thousands of creatures that make their home in tropical reefs. But where peninsulas and plateaus project out from the wall, nutrient rich water wells up from the deep and currents accelerate around and over these obstructions producing environments where fish congregate in astounding numbers. Such massed fish populations attract and provide food for the large predators, one of the hallmarks of Palau diving.
Tremendous schools of Barracuda, Trevaly Jacks, and Snappers slice through the clouds of reef fish surrounding these underwater plateaus while having to look out themselves for packs of patrolling sharks, moving through this mass of fish with an easy grace that tries to disguise their reason for being there. At these locations nothing is static, conditions, currents and the populations change throughout the day. Adding further complexity to the swirling oceanic currents are tremendous tidal flows crossing the vast reef flats twice each day, carrying crystal clear ocean water into the huge lagoon, then alternately flushing seaward a rich organic stew laden with tons of plankton made up of newly fertilized eggs and larva of reef dwellers.
For any chance of survival these microscopic juveniles must mature in the open ocean for a while before attempting a return to the islands to seek their niche in the hyper competitive reef environment. This incredible plankton production concentrates at certain locations, at various times of the day, and under particular tidal conditions, attracting tremendous schools planktovores, which in their turn draw the large predator fish. These conditions provide more opportunities to dive surrounded by thousands of fish while Mantas do slow motion back rolls to remain in the richest part of the plankton flow.